Governments and business must work together more effectively and urgently to meet the growing demand for Internet addresses and secure the future of the Internet economy, according to a new OECD report, Internet Address Space: Economic Considerations in the Management ofIPv4 and in the Deployment of IPv6.
With nearly 85 percent of all available Internet addresses already in use by May 2008, experts believe that, if current trends continue, addresses will run out by 2011.
This could mean that new Internet users or mobile devices will not be able to access the Internet. The answer, says the report, is Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) which will provide an almost unlimited number of addresses and help drive the rollout of broadband, Internet-connected mobile phones and sensor networks, and new Internet services.
Governments and business should raise awareness of the need to start preparing now for the move from today's Internet Protocol version 4 to IPv6 and explain to Internet Service Providers and IT professionals that the move is a commercial and social opportunity, not a financial burden.
Service providers have to date been reluctant to invest because customer demand for IPv6 is low. Governments could play a role as a large user of Internet services by stimulating demand for IPv6 through their own procurement policies and through public-private partnerships in IPv6 research and development, the report says.
The report also considers the alternative to a widespread adoption of IPv6 whereby some regions adopt it and others merely adapt IPv4 as a short-term solution. This, it warns, would impact the economic opportunities offered by the Internet with severe consequences in terms of stifled creativity and deployment of new services.
Some countries have taken a lead in deploying IPv6 networks. The Japanese telecommunications firm NTT, for example, uses IPv6 to connect thousands of earthquake sensors via a computer system that sends automatic alerts to television programs and turns traffic lights red. This type of application requires millions of addresses so cannot work on today's Internet but already does on IPv6.
The United States government has set June 2008 as the deadline by which the Internet network of every government agency must be compatible with IPv6. The European Commission is also funding research projects and looking at ways to speed up deployment.
Korea, the venue for next month's OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy, has committed to converting Internet equipment in public institutions to IPv6 by 2010 and to installing IPv6 equipment in every newly built communications network.
The Chinese government has begun rolling out an IPv6 network, called China Next Generation Internet, and will use the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to test mobile devices and intelligent transport and security systems running on IPv6.